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Artists on Artists: Alejandro Cesarco

Author(s): Nicols Guagnini


Source: BOMB, No. 106, 10th Anniversary Americas Issue (Winter, 2009), pp. 42-43
Published by: New Art Publications
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Detail of Flowers I-X, 2003, one of ten framed
receipts, each 14 * 10 Vi" All images courtesy
of the artist and Murray Guy, New York.
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BY NICOLS GUAGNINI
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SUBTOTAL
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Alejandro
Cesareo works
brazenly
in a
tradition,
the aesthetic confines
of classic
conceptual
art. In his
work,
text
prevails
over
image
-
replacing
it or
transforming
it.
Free of the historical concern of
visual
originality,
Cesarco's art
commands a set of forms that could
be
aptly
described as "the aesthet-
ics of administration." The look is
paradoxically
a
ubiquitous
and an
abandoned one (and
yet symptom-
atic of
absorption
into a canonical
art-historical narrative). Cesareo
uses the
opacity
of
language
to
create narratives and cultural
landscapes
of melancholic
preci-
sion,
often cued from
high-modern
literature. His work seems to have
always
been
there, granted
like an
old
friendship, yet
it confronts us
with a
vague
and
foreboding
feel-
ing
of loss. In
short,
it feels like a
traumatized but
romantically
heal-
ing experience
of the last
chapter
of
modernity.
The tension between a built-
in art-historical narrative and
a
personal
and
present
one is
elaborated in the
cleverly
titled
Retrospective,
a 2007 set of silk-
screens on aluminum
produced
by
Cesareo in collaboration with
42 BOMB
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John Baldessari. Pictures of solid-
color
pages
of a
hypothetical
book
are
interrupted only by small,
numbered circles with
correspond-
ing captions.
These
deadpan
rect-
angular photographs
are
also,
in
turn, captioned.
As the two sets of
captions
cross-reference each
other,
the
hierarchy
of textual author-
ity
in the
piece
is dismantled. The
implicit
tension between historical
time (a
photograph
of a
book,
for
example)
and the
caption's
voice
in the
present
tense makes the
segmentation
of
history
-
generally
an
arbitrary
and conventional
matter
-
into a
story
for
making
the
present intelligible.
Cesareo
and Baldessari's series asks: whose
is the master
narrative,
and whom
is it for?
The
question
of
circulation,
which exists at the
political
core
of
conceptual
art and of its atten-
dant dictum of
dematerialization,
does not elude Cesarco's
practice.
His endeavors are not confined to
walls. For
example,
Cesarco's
very
plain description
of his 2003
piece
Flowers
speaks
for itself:
A
bouquet of flowers
was sent
to a selected
group of people.
A
performance for
a
public of
one. A card with the
following
text
accompanied
the
flowers:
THIS SCULPTURE BY ALEJANDRO
CESARCO WAS SPONSORED BY
SOCRATES SCULPTURE PARK.
Flowers were sent to:
Vija
Celmins,
Elizabeth
Peyton,
Roni
Horn,
Yvonne
Rainer,
Lynne Tillman,
Louise
Lawler,
Yoko
Ono,
Rachel
Harrison,
Andrea
Fraser,
Sherrie Levine.
Sending
flowers to women artists
gently
and somewhat
ironically
highlights
another
political
and
historical
imperative:
that of
orga-
nized feminism and its
legacy,
which Cesareo seems to
point
out
is concurrent with that of
concep-
tual art. The list of
recipients
is
devilishly specific
in its balance
of
pioneerism
and
hype,
of canoni-
cal and eccentric
figures.
Cesarco's
god
(or declarative intent) is in the
detail. Another circulation-based
project
of his is an
ongoing
series
of
small,
conversation-based
books,
each of which
pairs
two artists
-
for
example,
Paul Chan with
Martha
Rosier,
Silvia Kolbowski
with Walid
Raad,
or Liam Gillick
with Lawrence Weiner. The conver-
sations that result from his edito-
rial
undertaking
are
simply equal;
the interlocutors in the books are
as often female as male.
Similarly,
the flowers he sent were addressed
to
"people,"
not to "women artists."
Cesarco's decisions
-
visual,
textual,
and otherwise
-
do not
correspond
to a
public
discourse
barked with
passionate empha-
sis. He never raises his voice or
agitates.
He doesn't need to. His
quietness
is
crystal
clear.
-
Nicols
Guagnini
is a
New York-based artist and
writer. He is a
cofounder of
Union Gaucha Productions,
an artists1
experimental film
company,
and
of
the now
defunct
Orchard
Gallery.
His
writing
has
appeared
in CAA
Reviews, Parkett,
Texte Zur
Kunst, October,
and other
magazines,
as well as in vari-
ous exhibition
catalogues.
He
teaches
drawing
at Barnard
College.
Book covers from Between Artists, a series of books
published by A.R.T. Press, New York.
Alejandro Cesareo and John Baldessari,
Retrospective 5, from Retrospective, 2007, a series
of 12 silkscreen-on-aluminum prints, 48 * 36!'
ARTISTS ON ARTISTS ALEJANDRO CESARCO 43
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